An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)


Karina Gould  Liberal


Second reading (Senate), as of March 1, 2018

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This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to

(a) enact an advertising and reporting regime for fundraising events attended by Ministers, party leaders or leadership contestants; and

(b) harmonize the rules applicable to contest expenses of nomination contestants and leadership contestants with the rules applicable to election expenses of candidates.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 13, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)
Feb. 6, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)
Feb. 6, 2018 Failed Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing) (report stage amendment)
Feb. 6, 2018 Failed Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing) (report stage amendment)
June 15, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

March 1st, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.
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Halifax Nova Scotia


Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-364, introduced by the member for Terrebonne.

This private member's bill, Bill C-364, would amend Canada's Elections Act and Income Tax Act in the following ways.

First, it would substantially lower the contribution limits to political entities. For example, it would reduce the maximum annual contribution that individuals could make to each registered political party from $1,550 down to $500, which is a reduction of more than two-thirds, and would make similar reductions for other political entities, such as candidates and leadership contestants.

Further, it would reinstate the quarterly allowance to political parties. This allowance was introduced initially in 2004 and then phased out in 2015. Finally, it would amend the Income Tax Act to increase the tax credit benefit for those contributing more than $750.

I would like to say that while I appreciate the member for Terrebonne's efforts to improve political financing in Canada, I also want to flag that there are elements of the bill that are cause for concern. First, this legislation is expensive. In fact, the parliamentary budget office website states with respect to the bill:

PBO estimates that, in total, the cost to the federal government will be $45.2 million in 2018, increasing to $46.2 million in 2021. The reintroduction of a quarterly allowance, which is paid from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to registered political parties, represents the overwhelming majority of the cost.

However, this is a time when our government is focusing federal resources on top priority issues like affordable housing, climate action, pharmacare, and help for the middle class and those working hard to join it. These are just a few examples of the work we are embarking on as a result of listening to the concerns of Canadians.

Our government knows that Canadians have good reason to be proud of our democracy. We will always have more work to do to make it even better, and we are going about that work. However, we cannot forget that there are already considerable supports existing in the system, specifically generous tax credits for financial contributors. Candidates and parties are also reimbursed for, or rebated, a significant portion of their campaign expenses from Elections Canada.

The tax credit for donations in 2015 cost the treasury an estimated $55 million. After the 2015 election, $60.7 million was reimbursed to parties and another $42.7 million went to the official agents for candidates' campaigns, for a total cost to Canadians of $158 million. Had Bill C-364 been in place in 2015, the total cost over the subsequent four years would have been $278 million, an increase of 76% over the actual costs. That number does not even include other subsidies contained in the Canada Elections Act, such as the provision of broadcasting time to registered parties.

Another financial concern is that this legislation would give larger tax breaks to those contributing more than $750. The Department of Finance predicts that this could result in a decline in federal revenues by up to $2 million in years when there is a leadership contest under way. I would also argue that this would be a regressive tax change. It would allow wealthier Canadians to receive a larger benefit for their donations.

The bill also removes the ceiling on what could be claimed under its provisions. By extension, this would be most beneficial to the wealthiest Canadians. Yet another concern is that this bill would drop contribution limits to leadership contestants from $1,550 to $1,000.

As members know, 2017 was the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We all know that Canadians deeply value our charter, and we know it is a model for new democracies around the world. Section 3 of the charter guarantees every eligible Canadian citizen the right to vote and to run in an election. Section 2, which includes the freedoms of association and expression, gives Canadian citizens and permanent residents the right to donate to a party. This right is of course subject to reasonable limitations.

Political parties are a necessary and important part of our democratic process. They unite people who come from different geographic regions. They unite people who have different perspectives. Parties help to mobilize citizens around ideas they cherish. As former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci said, “Political parties provide individual citizens with an opportunity to express an opinion on the policy and functioning of government.”

Canadians participate in our democracy not just by voting or donating to a party. They can also become politically active as a party volunteer. However, many Canadians do not have either the time or desire to support parties in that way, so for some, donating is how they choose to have their voices heard.

This is one of the big reasons why our government believes strongly in maintaining a balanced, open, and transparent political financing system. Be assured that we are continuing to review the rules for political financing to ensure that Canada has a balanced approach.

Another aspect of political fundraising that our government has been focused on is Bill C-50, which has recently passed third reading in the House of Commons, and is now being deliberated in the Senate. Bill C-50 would ensure that any fundraising activity, which costs more than $200, where a cabinet minister, including the Prime Minister are present, or a party leader or a leadership contestant is in attendance, must be reported five days in advance on the party's website, and the guest list must be disclosed publicly. This kind of reporting will ensure that Canadians have a more open and transparent fundraising system.

What is also interesting about Bill C-50 is that both Conservative Party members, and several newly independent members of this House, voted against this legislation, which, as I mentioned, would increase transparency in our political system. It is important to note that this also includes the member for Terrebonne, whose name is on the very bill we are now debating. He too voted against this important legislation improving our political system for Canadians.

The member for Terrebonne chose to bring Bill C-364 forward to the House. This bill would benefit wealthier donors by increasing their tax credits. As well, he and his colleagues voted against bringing greater transparency to fundraisers. These actions would move our democracy backward, not forward.

In addition to Bill C-50, the Minister of Democratic Institutions is also moving our democracy forward by ensuring more, and not fewer Canadians, have access to voting with as few barriers as possible. This is done through repealing elements of the previous government's so-called Fair Elections Act. We are also moving our democracy forward by focusing on protecting our democratic institutions from foreign influence in our elections.

In partnership with the Communications Security Establishment, we released a first-of-its-kind in the world report on cyber threats to our democracy. As technology changes and evolves, so must our efforts to defend from those wishing to disrupt our Canadian democracy.

To further move our democracy forward, the Prime Minister tasked the Minister of Democratic Institutions to examine and present options for a commission or commissioner to organize leaders' debates during federal elections. In support of that, the minister and I were happy to participate in cross-Canada meetings with stakeholders from the broadcast media, new media, civil society, and academia to listen to their views on this important issue.

Our government is focused on moving forward and not backward. We are focused on strengthening our democratic institutions. We are focused on matters that unite Canadians, and not on those that divide Canadians. For this reason, the government cannot support Bill C-364.

We must ensure that the conditions are fair for political parties, and at the same time recognize that Canadians have a democratic right to actively participate in their democracy by means of reasonable contributions.

Democratic ReformOral Questions

February 15th, 2018 / 2:45 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario


Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased that the House passed Bill C-50 at third reading this week, legislation that represents the next step in the strengthening of our political fundraising rules, making fundraising events involving ministers and party leaders more open and transparent than ever before.

I was disappointed, however, that the official opposition voted against openness and transparency in fundraising. However, I look forward to the next step and the progress of making sure that Canadians have more information than ever before when it comes to political fundraising events here in Canada.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to an order made on Friday, February 9, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-50.

The House resumed from February 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the thank the member for Perth—Wellington for his speech on Bill C-50, which is a bill, as he described, that arose because of the problem around the Liberal cash for access fundraisers.

I wonder if the member could comment on what the average Canadian might want the government to do to fix this problem. If we asked a reasonable person on the street, would they feel a whole lot better about these things if they had been invited? Would they feel a whole lot better if they found out a month from now who was there rather than a year from now? These people cannot afford $1,500 to get this access.

Should the government make it illegal to have cash for access fundraisers? I wonder if the member could elaborate on that.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House. It is particularly an honour to rise on a Friday afternoon, when so many of my friends and colleagues have joined us in the House today to listen to my speech. It is always a great honour to have so many people tuning in.

It reminds me a bit of when I was a lecturer at King's University College at the Western University when so many people would turn up for my lectures on Canadian public administration. They were always hanging on every word, until I had to wake them up, and then realized they may not have been paying as much attention as I had thought.

However, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-50. As a member of the procedure and House affairs committee, I am well-acquainted with the legislation, having heard from a number of witnesses and participated in the examination of this bill.

Bill C-50 is really about legitimizing the Liberal cash for access events. So often the Liberals try to tell Canadians that they are different, that they are not like those Liberals of the past anymore. The days of the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery commission, that is not them anymore. Those days are gone. The days of being entitled to their entitlements, those days are gone, as this is a different Liberal Party. The Prime Minister told Canadians, hand over heart, that the Liberal Party was different.

The Prime Minister, when he came to office, told Canadians:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties

However, shortly after the government was elected, that is exactly what happened. We saw a string of cash for access events. High-profile Liberal politicians hosted events where donors gave significant amounts of money to the Liberal Party. In exchange, these donors got private one-on-one access with senior Liberal ministers, senior Liberals ministers who many of those donors could potentially have business with the government and could potentially have business with these same ministers. Most Canadians know this is wrong. Most Canadians know that this is not an appropriate way for ministers of the crown, those who serve our country to operate. However, with the Liberals, old habits die hard.

We should not be too surprised when the Liberals formed government that these types of cash for access events would happen. After all, the Liberals learned from the best. The Ottawa Liberals learned from their Ontario counterparts. The Ottawa Liberals learned from Kathleen Wynne, Dalton McGuinty, and their great success with fundraising through cash for access events.

I want to quote from a Globe and Mail article of July 6, 2016. The title is, “An inside look at cash-for-access Ontario Liberal fundraisers”. The article reads:

On the evening of March 2, 2015, Premier Kathleen Wynne gathered with eight guests who paid $10,000 each for exclusive face-time. Three months earlier, 22 donors spent $5,000 apiece to be entertained by Finance Minister Charles Sousa. Days later, eight people shelled out $5,000 each to attend a reception with then-energy minister Bob Chiarelli.

These were just three of more than 150 intimate cash-for-access fundraisers the Ontario Liberal Party held in Ms. Wynne's first three years in power. At the events, contributors paid thousands of dollars each to bend the ears of the Premier and members of her cabinet privately, typically over cocktails and dinner at five-star hotels or high-end restaurants.

Therefore, the Ottawa Liberals had a great road map from their friends in Ontario.

What happened once the Liberals formed government? They quickly started implementing cash for access events.

Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers, even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals, Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016, fundraiser at the Toronto home of Chinese Business Chamber of Canada chairperson Benson Wong, according to the report in The Globe and Mail. A few weeks later, Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and $50,000 to build a statue of the current Prime Minister's father.

On November 7, 2016, B.C. multi-millionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion. At this event, which was of course a pay-to-play event, Chinese investment, seniors care, and real estate developments were certainly topics of discussion. This event took place while the federal government was reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of British Columbia's largest retirement and nursing home chains.

In Toronto, another example of cash for access was an event with the justice minister that had a $1,500 paycheque. This was again an event with a minister who could potentially be having dealings with these same donors.

When the Liberal Party promised real change, this was certainly not what Canadians were expecting. Canadians know this is wrong. Canadians know this type of cash for access event is not right. In fact, a 2016 Nanos Research survey showed that more than six in 10 Canadians disapprove of this type of event. They disapprove of political parties holding fundraising events in which access is sold to Canadians.

One has to wonder why the Liberals are so eager to raise money through cash for access events. One reason is that they are failing to raise money through other means. Time and again we see the Conservative Party raising more than the Liberal Party. Why does the Conservative Party raise more than the Liberals? It does so because of hard-working Canadians who feel the Conservative Party reflects their views. It does so because the Conservatives have a leader who is committed to Canadians, average Canadians, and not selling access, as our friends across the way have been doing since the beginning of their time in office.

Let us go back to what this bill is trying to do. It is trying to legitimize what the Liberals have been doing. Rather than simply stopping cash for access, they would rather print new rules just to legitimize what they are doing. However, they did not have to. They already have rules in place in their mandate letters and in the “Open and Accountable Government” document.

I will quote from the Minister of Democratic Institutions' mandate letter, but the words are reflected in all the mandate letters of ministers. The Prime Minister wrote the following to his Minister of Democratic Institutions: must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.

The Prime Minister's own letter to his ministers clearly dictates that simply following the letter of the law is not enough. They have to appear to be fully above board. This was not happening with the Liberals' cash for access fundraisers, so they brought in this piece of legislation to try to legitimize them.

The Liberal government introduced its “Open and Accountable Government” document with great fanfare. This would be the road map for a new era of transparency for these Liberals. The opening clearly states, “Open and Accountable Government sets out core principles regarding the roles and responsibilities of Ministers in Canada’s system of responsible parliamentary government.”

What are some of those requirements? What are some of those issues ministers and parliamentary secretaries ought to follow? Annex B, “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries”, states:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.

The best practices the Prime Minister lays out were not followed by his Liberals. They were not followed by his ministers, who felt the need to raise $1,500 from donors who could have direct dealings with not only the government as whole but also with its individual departments. Under “General Principles” in annex B, it states:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.

It is not only following the letter of the law. It is the appearance. It is ensuring that all actions are above board and are able to have the closest degree of scrutiny to ensure that those who serve as ministers of the crown, those who serve our country in high office, are not tainted by even the appearance of conflict of interest.

I am reminded of a former minister in the Harper Conservative government. Once she became aware that there was a potential that those who lobbied and who worked with her department could be attending a fundraiser hosted by her riding association, that event was cancelled and all funds raised were immediately returned. Then we fast-forward to this government. Not only is the money not being returned, but the Liberals are doubling down on these events and they have introduced Bill C-50 to do so.

This bill has had great fanfare from pretty much only the Liberal Party. In testimony before the committee, almost all witnesses were very lukewarm in their excitement about this piece of legislation. They were very lukewarm in their response to an underwhelming bill being brought forward. It could be because this bill really does not do much at all.

In fact, the media knows this. Despite the advertising of these events, the way the media is actually treated at the events is far from ideal.

Let me read from an article in The Hill Times from June 21, 2017:

A Hill journalist is calling into question the Liberal Party’s promise to make its fundraising events more open and transparent, after party staff restricted media access at a June 19 Ottawa event for the party’s top donors.

Sure, the media can know about the events. They can even show up, as long as they stay in the corner and do not talk to anyone. The report goes on to state:

Reporters were ushered into one room for an RCMP sweep prior to speeches. They were told they were not allowed to mingle, but could talk to guests registering and entering the event in the foyer of the museum.

Even a Liberal Party candidate expressed concern about how the Liberals were treating journalists:

Allan Thompson, a journalism professor at Carleton University who ran for the Liberals in the riding of Huron–Bruce, Ont. during the 2015 election and attended Monday’s event, said in an interview afterward that he had sympathy for the reporters who weren’t allowed to mingle, especially because of his background as a former Hill reporter with The Toronto Star.

It is one thing to try to legitimize cash for access. It is another thing to blatantly use this as a ploy to keep the media away and to ensure that this is actually not opening up transparency at all, unlike the former Conservative government, which, on taking office in 2006, introduced Bill C-2, the strongest measures of accountability and transparency in our country. It was a bill that banned corporate and union donations, and put hard caps on the amount of money that could be donated to political parties. Unfortunately, the good work that was begun by the Conservative Party is now being used by the Liberals to initiate and to continue their cash for access events.

Of course, there are certain exceptions and exemptions to this bill. One such exemption is what I like to call the Laurier Club loophole. Yes, donor appreciation events are included under this legislation, except for when they occur at a party convention. A perfect example of this is the Liberal Party convention happening later this year. The Liberal Party's own website boasts about the benefits of being a Laurier Club member, which include invitations to “Laurier Club events across the country, hearing from leading voices on our Liberal team” and the “opportunity to meet a strong network of business and community leaders who share your commitment to Liberal values”.

The Liberal Party is selling access through its Laurier Club. In fact, earlier this week, the chief of staff to the Minister of National Defence sent a tweet that said, “if there was a time to join Laurier Club, now is the time”, of course, referring in advance to the Laurier Club event that would be held at the Liberal convention later this year. It is cash for access, but simply another way of doing it.

I find it interesting that when this legislation was tabled, we heard from certain witnesses in committee, and one of them was Canada's acting Chief Electoral Officer. It was interesting because the acting Chief Electoral Officer had a number of suggested amendments to this piece of legislation. Why should the Chief Electoral Officer have to encourage a committee to introduce amendments? Could it be that the Liberal government did not actually consult the Chief Electoral Officer before introducing this piece of legislation, and instead, had to rely on the committee to review to take into account some of his recommendations?

Let us talk about penalties in this act. Clause 11 of the bill states:

Section 500 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

Punishment — strict liability offences

(1.1) Every person who is guilty of an offence under section 497.01 is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $1,000.

That is one aspect of it. The other aspect is found in proposed section 384.4, which refers to the return of contributions. I find it interesting with these Liberals that if, in this situation, an event is held that does not comply with the new rules they are putting in place, the money has to be repaid, but what about an all-expense paid trip to the Aga Khan's private island? What about a trip in which the Ethics Commissioner found that the Prime Minister had violated the ethics laws on four separate occasions? What about that situation?

No, these Liberals feel there is no need to repay money in that situation. There is no need for the Prime Minister to pay back $200,000-plus that was expensed to Canadian taxpayers for an illegal and ethically challenged trip that the Prime Minister himself took. No, the Prime Minister does not feel the need to pay that back, because what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. This behaviour, by an elected member of the House, let alone the Prime Minister of this country, is unacceptable.

The bill is clear in what it intends to do. It intends to do nothing more than legitimize the cash for access schemes of the Liberal Party of Canada. Old habits die hard and with these Liberals, it is the same old Liberal Party.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear my New Democratic colleague's views in this area. We all hear that our constituents, voters, Canadians want to see themselves reflected in the government, both in the seats that are here but also reflected in the outcomes of public consultations and public participation. I know that very active youth activists, especially, feel deeply betrayed by the government abandoning its promise, repeated 1,500 times, that it would make every vote count. It had broad public support, and the parliamentary committee made a lot of strong recommendations that the government totally ignored.

Bill C-50, for one, feels like a distraction from that broken promise on true democratic reform. As well, the Liberal government ignored the previous committee study, in the previous Parliament, that could have informed this work, and then also ignored the amendments that the NDP made at committee. It just did not even give them consideration.

How do these betrayals affect public support for the political process and for the democratic process? What is lost when those promises are broken?

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, since we are still talking about Bill C-50, let us all agree on why we are here.

We are talking about this bill, the main goal of which is to restore the Liberals' reputation, which was tarnished by certain ministers and the Prime Minister. We are not talking about the Prime Minister's vacation to the Aga Khan's island. He was severely chastised by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner recently for that. We are talking about political party financing.

As we all know, politics and the exercise of democracy requires funding. Funding is needed to run an election campaign. In order to raise that money, some members of the Liberal government sold privileged access. At what price? It seems that the maximum amount that can be donated to a federal party is $1,500.

In May 2016, the Prime Minister went to the home of a wealthy businessman, where 32 guests paid $1,500 each for exclusive access to the leader of the government.

We also learned that the Prime Minister was present at receptions hosted by the wealthiest people and business people at $1,500 a plate, in order to meet people interested in the infrastructure bank. There were also Chinese nationals hoping to buy Canadian telecommunication companies in B.C. Other people had interests in cannabis, for example. All of these very influential people with a lot of money managed to land a private evening with the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister cannot deny it. This has been made public, so Canadians would know, which put him in an awkward position, much like the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice.

If that does not constitute selling access to ministers or the Prime Minister, I do not know what does.

In October 2016, as I said, it was the Minister of Finance who was hosting a cocktail party at $1,500 a plate with wealthy people from Bay Street. The Minister of Finance is supposed to be an arbiter and show fairness to all Canadians, since he regulates Canada's financial sector. However, he had no problem taking money from some of the world's wealthiest people.

The activities of the Minister of Justice have also been the subject of much discussion. What exactly is the problem? How is the Minister of Justice in conflict? Certain lawyers hoping for judgeships attended the Minister of Justice's fundraising events, which were held not in her riding, but in various places across the country. Since the minister is the one who approves judicial appointments, there is clearly a conflict of interest there.

Certainly political parties need to hold fundraisers to generate revenue and to have a platform for candidates' ideas during election campaigns. The problem is the lack of transparency with respect to who attends, what they talk about, and access to ministers.

“Open and Accountable Government” states the following:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions...

That is exactly what we are talking about today.

Let me be clear. Very few of our constituents, such as the people of Salaberry-Suroît, can afford to spend $1,500 to attend a private event. When someone is prepared to do so, they obviously expect something in return. In the case at hand, it is the possibility of becoming known to a minister or getting one's name into an address book, which could help get an idea or a project off the ground. It goes without saying that there is always the possibility of putting a word in or making a recommendation to the right person.

The only way to make these events less secretive is to make them more transparent. To that end, we have to allow the media to publicly report on the goings on at these events and to name who was present. One might think that that is the goal of Bill C-50 . However, as my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley said, the Liberals invented the Laurier Club loophole.

In some cases, specifically during party conventions, people might donate the maximum amount of $1,500 to the Liberal Party, but the names and addresses of those donors do not have to be made public. Under Bill C-50, every donation of $200 or more will have to be recorded in a report sent within 30 days to Elections Canada, which could publish that report on the Internet. Again under Bill C-50, any fundraising activity that involves ministers, the Prime Minister, and party presidents has to be announced five days in advance, a measure we applaud. In fact, that is why we support this bill. However, that does not stop people from avoiding disclosure by buying a $1,500 ticket under the pretext of attending a Liberal Party convention, for example.

This is just another bill that allows the Liberals to have it both ways. They claim to want to improve transparency, but with a bit of game-playing and an open back door they can continue to provide Liberal Party donors with a bit of discretion to ensure that they do not have to disclose their names and addresses, except in a final report at the end of the year. They also get to keep organizing questionable events providing special access to the Prime Minister and ministers.

Is that loophole fair? Should it be removed? The NDP thinks so. We made this recommendation in committee and the Liberals rejected it outright. Every time we make a recommendation in committee, the Liberals take great delight in rejecting it. Why? If the recommendation improves a bill, if it improves transparency, if they are looking to be accountable to the public, and to be fairer, more equitable, and more ethical, why do they refuse to prohibit privileged access at conventions? No one knows. We suspect that the Liberals are not opposed to that revenue stream.

We are also asking that the Chief Electoral Officer be given investigative powers to ensure that political financing during elections is fair and equitable and that he has the public's trust. Once again, the Liberals rejected the NDP's recommendation out of hand. The NDP has made many recommendations in committee, but the Liberals have ignored them, even though that is part of the democratic process. What is the point of having committees if we cannot make sensible recommendations based on the advice of experts and common sense and if the Liberal majority, which refuses to listen to reason or to be open to other ideas, always prevails? What is the point of hearing from one witness after another, if in the end the government does not listen to any of their suggestions?

The Liberals are the champions of excessive consultation. They are doing the same thing to farmers. The Liberals keep saying that they want to know what to do to protect supply management and maintain family farms in Canada. They keep telling farmers that they are going to consult them and listen to them and that farmers are important, but when it comes right down to it, the Liberals are using farmers as a bargaining chip.

Getting back to the matter at hand and Bill C-50, it is the same thing. Once again, fair, sensible, and significant recommendations that would make Bill C-50 more than just a charade will not be acted upon because, unfortunately, the Liberals rejected them.

Bill C-50 still allows parties to hold fundraisers and makes it even harder to fight corruption. This is an opportunity to strengthen our democracy and prove to all Canadians that their elected representatives live up to moral and ethical standards, but that is not where the Liberals are going with this.

Clearly, the bill does not go far enough. There is an effort to be more transparent, but it still allows cash for access events to be held. Those kinds of events, which we oppose, have been making headlines for the past six months. They will stay in the headlines because certains parties will maintain this practice, as the Liberal Party is doing now.

I want to reiterate that this was a Liberal promise in 2015. This is a betrayal of the people who voted for the Prime Minister, who then decided to give up on the electoral reform that Canadians, especially young Canadians, so desperately want.

We are trying to get young people more involved in politics, not just as candidates, but more interested in political activities, in the debates, in social issues. We want young people to know what is going on, to propose ideas, and to become engaged.

There was one idea that really united young people, gave them hope, and might have won them over, but in the end, they were told “never mind”; the old system was too advantageous for the Liberals, and our young people were robbed of that hope.

What effect will that have? Youth voter turnout has declined by 30% over the past 30 years and no one seems to mind. The Liberals do not seem to think it is important to remedy the situation. They are in power. They have a majority. That means that they are going to continue to dash the hopes of these young people who believed them. These young people will be told to have faith because there may still be some authentic people who keep their promises and bring integrity to politics. Nevertheless, with every broken promise, it becomes harder and harder to show people that there can still be honest politicians worthy of our trust.

Electoral reform was not just a simple election promise. It was a commitment made by the Prime Minister to everyone. Again, we are nowhere near it. The Prime Minister has done a complete about-face and left people with their shattered dreams of a better world.

It is 2018 and there is nothing left of the promise that brought the Prime Minister to power. He made people believe that legislators could not agree. However, as I mentioned, 90% of the people did agree. The Conservative Party, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, the Green Party, everyone agreed that there was a need for electoral reform and that proportional representation had to be part of the next system. That was not enough for the Liberals.

Clearly, a mixed member proportional system resonated with MPs, Canadians, and experts alike. It would have given a voice to every Canadian.

For all these reasons, I find that Bill C-50 is poorly thought out. It does provide some additional transparency, but there is so much more to be done. The Liberals could have gone further. We hope that they will listen to reason and will be open to the NDP's recommendations and those of the other parties and the experts.

Under the bill, any party that does not follow the rules would be fined $1,000. However, according to a former chief electoral officer, this fine would not deter parties from breaking the law. If donors can donate up to $1,500, the parties are still making money and still manage to fill their coffers. It is not hard for them to pay a $1,000 fine. That is ridiculous.

This really is a smokescreen. The Liberals are trying to restore their public image, but this is mostly fluff.

I think the Liberals should go back to the drawing board, improve this bill, and make it genuinely ethical and moral.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2018 / 10:55 a.m.
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Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is no accident that today we are once again debating the Liberals' Bill C-50.

Several scandals have put the spotlight on the Liberals' outrageous and questionable fundraising activities. They introduced Bill C-50 to improve their image. After breaking the electoral reform promise they made before, during, and after the 2015 campaign, they introduced this bill to cover up the fact that they had broken their promise.

The Liberals dangled this promise before a generation of young people, my generation, saying that our electoral system was obviously not very representative and that it did not necessarily reflect how Canadians voted. People believed this promise. The NDP believed it. At the end of the day, we were too naive. We were thinking that, for once, something constructive would be done.

Tens of thousands of Canadians testified and were consulted as the committee travelled across Canada, gathering ideas and suggestions from citizens. Eighty percent of Canadians said that they were in favour of a system with a proportional component. Furthermore, almost 90% of the experts who appeared before the electoral reform committee were also in favour of a proportional system for the next election.

About two weeks ago, the Prime Minister told the CBC that he was not convinced. When he put an end to the electoral reform process one year ago, everyone was devastated. What more do we need to do if the Prime Minister cannot recognize what is democratic, even though 80% of citizens and 90% of experts are on the same page?

At some point, the people stop believing the politicians, whom they mandated to represent the public. The Prime Minister himself repeated some 60 times that he would do what it took to ensure the 2015 election was the last under the first past the post system. He is now outright rejecting this and telling us that the current system works in his favour and that he will leave it as is, despite all the work done on this file.

The committee travelled across the country at great expense. All that work was done for nothing because, in the end, the Prime Minister did what he wanted and decided that the views expressed at all those consultations by all the experts and by all Canadians were meaningless.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2018 / 10:45 a.m.
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Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, during the 2015 election campaign, the Prime Minister said, “There should be no preferential access to government or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.”

This is the rule the current Prime Minister set out for himself and for his cabinet. He said that there should be no preferential access to government, or even the appearance of preferential access, based on donations. However, this legislation would do nothing to effect that. Only the names of those who donate to political parties would be published, and the bill would change the timing of the publication of those names. Therefore, pay to play would continue, and cash for access would continue. This would just speed up when we tell people how the government was bought and sold. We would inform the public online more quickly how preferential access was given.

Could my colleague explain how Bill C-50 would do anything to help implement the Prime Minister's own promise to Canadians that no preferential access to government or the appearance of preferential access would be given based on financial contributions?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2018 / 10 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-50, which is important legislation.

I am a little surprised that the Conservative Party has opted to vote in opposition to the legislation, which does not make sense. I listened to them talk at great length, attempting to explain why they were opposed to it.

If they were to read the bill, I think most Canadians would have to question why the Conservatives have made this decision. I hope to maybe explain, at least in part, why I believe the official opposition has decided to vote against it.

The New Democratic Party has taken a little different approach. The New Democrats are reiterating a lot of the their Conservative friends have highlighted. I have often made reference to the unholy alliance between the two parties. They like to work together, fairly closely, and we can hear that at times with their speaking notes. However, the New Democrats have the wisdom to recognize something the Conservatives have not, and that is that this is good legislation and is worth supporting.

What are we asking of the House? The essence of the legislation is that not only do we want the Prime Minister to be more accountable and transparent with respect to who he meets with and who pays for these $250-a-plate meetings or gatherings, whatever type of reception it might be, but that same principle also apply to cabinet ministers, and I think this is really where the catch is, the Leader of the Opposition, and other leaders.

It is a step forward in government legislation and the types of things that could improve accountability and transparency. It all boils down to wanting to amend the law so there is a legal obligation for political entities, those leaders, the Prime Minister, and cabinet ministers, to indicate who shows up at these receptions. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. I see that as a strong positive.

We have seen many reforms over the last couple of decades to improve the Canada Elections Act and the Financial Administration Act, and this is yet another piece of legislation to do just that.

One has to question why the Conservatives are in opposition to that. The only thing I have discovered is the current leadership within the Conservative Party seems to believe Canadians do not have any business knowing with whom the Leader of the Opposition is meeting.

It is interesting, because last year there was a fundraising event, and we knew it was a fundraising event, but the Conservatives denied it. It was with the current Leader of the Opposition, the Conservative Party. When we made some initial inquiries in regard to it, we were told that the event never occurred. The Conservatives were formally asked whether there was an event and we were told no.

That puts things at odds with the individuals who actually attended the event. One of those individuals said “No, I did pay”. I believe the opposition leader met with realtors and some business leaders, but I do not know the actual price that was paid. It was over $250, and it might have been $500, although do not quote me on the price. However, it was a substantial amount of money to meet with the leader. The leader finally had to admit they did have the fundraiser. I do not understand the resistance in telling people this, but there was a great reluctance.

If we read the one published news story on the issue, it is interesting that the leader of the official opposition said, in essence, that he was not the prime minister, that he did not have to report it, that he would keep within the law. He implied that if it were the law, then he would report it. If we connect the dots, one could draw the conclusion that the Conservatives do not want this to be the law, and that is the reason they will vote against it.

Members across the way say that it is somewhat silly or possibly ridiculous, but think about it. The leader of the official opposition said if it were the law, he would report it. We now are introducing the law that would obligate him to report it and the Conservative Party will vote against it.

I do not quite understand how the Conservatives can justify that the leader of the official opposition, the person who wants to be prime minister some day, should not have to share with Canadians who he meets with for these big bucks. Instead of trying to explain or justify that, they are choosing use the line that they are voting against the legislation because of so-called cash for access, as if the Conservatives never did it when they were in government. Some of them across the way say they did not do it.

I can recall when former prime minister Stephen Harper would go to British Columbia for summer barbeques. The good news is that if people attended the barbeque, they could watch the prime minister walk into the big white tent. They could not go into the big white tent unless they paid at least $1,000, but if they paid that, it would give them two minutes with the prime minister and a photo. It is not like that was just a one-time event. I understand it was almost an annual event and it was very nice of a senator to put on that event. How quickly things have changed.

Do the Conservatives believe that former prime minister Stephen Harper did not raise money for their party, never attended an event where money was charged? I just gave an example of it.

Did Stephen Harper say that these ware all the people who were in that big white tent? I will suggest, no. If I am wrong, please tell us who was in the white tent with the prime minister, who paid that extra money to have the ear of the prime minister.

We know that whether one is a leader or a prime minister, leaders of political entities have a responsibility to assist their respective parties in raising money. Is it too much to ask that the individuals they meet with, who are paying over $250, at some point become public knowledge? I would suggest not.

This government has said no. The Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers have now been following the rules in this legislation. The Conservative Party still does not want to follow it. It reminds me of another situation, and my friends will recall this one.

I remember when the current Prime Minister was the leader of the Liberal Party, sitting back where the New Democrats are sitting today. We all remember those days. Personally, I am glad those days are over, and the biggest beneficiary of that has been Canada's middle class. I remember when he stood in the House and said that he believed in proactive disclosure. He asked for the unanimous consent of the House to implement “proactive disclosure” in regard to members of Parliament. I remember all the objections and the nos, especially coming from the then official opposition the New Democratic Party. However, those members were not alone at all. The Conservatives also objected to it. It was not like we just tried it the one time; we tried it on several occasions.

I believe the Prime Minister set into work good deeds that ultimately ensured there would be more transparency and accountability coming out of the House. That is what this legislation would do that.

I will go back to the proactive disclosure for MPs and what happened. We decided that even though it was not the law, we took actions and we imposed it upon ourselves, and that is what is happening with the the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers today. It did not take that long for the Conservative Party back then to recognize it was offside, kind of out of touch with Canadians. I give the Conservatives credit. They recognized it, jumped on board and complied. My New Democratic friends went kicking and screaming. It ultimately took an opposition day where they were shamed into supporting proactive disclosure.

Today the New Democrats are recognizing that this is good legislation so they are supporting it. People will notice that even though they are supporting the legislation, they are still somewhat critical of the government but they recognize the value of good legislation, unlike my Conservative friends across the way. After the current Prime Minister convinced them that listening to Canadians was a good thing to do, they came on board with the proactive disclosure for MPs. However, now on this issue, the Conservatives do not seem to want to listen to Canadians.

I always thought we would not do any worse than Stephen Harper with respect to leadership, but on this issue, the Conservatives do not recognize something that even Stephen Harper recognized, which was being more transparent and accountable was what Canadians expected. That is why I do not quite understand their position on Bill C-50. The good news is that it is not too late. It took the Conservatives a little while to come to their senses on proactive disclosure for MPs. I am an optimistic person. I believe the glass is half full. I would hope my friends across the way will actually see the merit of passing the legislation.

I know some Conservatives have argued in their presentations that we do not need the law to tell us what we should be doing.

The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), be read the third time and passed.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

February 8th, 2018 / 3:05 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue our debate on the NDP opposition motion. Tomorrow, we will resume third reading debate of Bill C-50 on political financing.

Monday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days. On Tuesday, we will start second reading debate on Bill C-68, the fisheries legislation. On Wednesday, we will call the environmental assessment bill, which was introduced this morning.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Kerry Diotte Conservative Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, I am here today to speak to Bill C-50. We have heard a lot of comments from this side of the House noting that the bill really would not get it done. It is quite amazing that our cohorts in the NDP want to support it. I have to say at the outset of my remarks that it is so typical of the Liberals to introduce very complicated legislation and red tape instead of just being inherently ethical.

In the Prime Minister's own open and accountable government guide, which we all know is “Open and Accountable”, under the fundraising section it states, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.” It is pretty simple, straightforward, and sounds pretty good.

Why do the Liberals need such legislation if they could just follow their own rules? It just does not add up to me.

We all know that the Liberals broke the rules and they were caught. That is why we are here debating this legislation today. That is the only reason this legislation has come forward. Here we are debating Bill C-50, which is basically a band-aid for bad behaviour, Liberal bad behaviour.

This legislation really is quite unnecessary. We do not need new legislation to tell us how to act and to tell us what to do and how to behave. It has been said here before, but it is worth repeating, that a new law will not make the Prime Minister's infamous cash for access fundraisers ethical. Those famous, or maybe I should say infamous, Liberal fundraisers saw scores of people paying $1,500 a pop to have special access to the Prime Minister or cabinet ministers. It is really quite shameful.

Members on all sides of the House should know what is right and what is wrong. We have probably all known this since we were four years old or maybe younger. If we are caught with our hand in the cookie jar, there is a price to pay. The Liberal leader of Canada was clearly caught with his hand in the cookie jar. There is absolutely no doubt about that. He has admitted it, etc., etc.

Canadians tell me they believe the Prime Minister just does not understand basic ethics, and that is pretty evident. He does not like to own up to what he has done. He does not understand that when people do something or take something that does not belong to them, they have to give it back. We were taught that as children. We have to accept punishment. We cannot just say, “My bad, can't do it. Sorry about that. Sorry if I hurt your feelings.”

It is just like his trip to the Aga Khan's private island. The Prime Minister was found to have broken the law. He was found guilty of four ethics violations. We all know what happened. When we break the law, there is a price to pay. We cannot just say “sorry”. We all remember that famous song of the 1980s, Tears Are Not Enough. It rings true now.

We also know the Prime Minister is very good at crying on cue and appearing to be sorry, but he has to make amends and is just not willing to do so. He has said that again and again in the House. I guess he is just not ready. Where have I heard that before? I do not know. It is true that he has just not grown up yet. Maybe he was never punished before. I do not know.

Every Canadian knows that we just cannot take something, say sorry, and then not give it back. We learn that as children. It is especially not cool when someone is taking taxpayer money from hard-working Canadians. Now these are people who know what it is like to work hard for a dollar. That is precisely what the Prime Minister is doing. He is taking from hard-working taxpayers. He is even refusing to pay back more than $200,000 for his illegal family trip to fantasy island. That is what I like to call it. It was a fantasy.

Do not forget he is the first sitting Canadian Prime Minister found in violation of a federal statute while in office. That is quite a record. It is terrible. It is shameful. Here is something I think of all the time. Could we imagine the outrage if then prime minister Stephen Harper had broken the law in this way? They would be stringing up the gallows. However, I know that would never have happened. It did not happen and it could not have happened because of the fundraising rules already in place, as well as the fact that we, as Conservatives, followed them. That is the key. We followed the existing rules.

Canadians really deserve better than a Prime Minister who believes there is one set of rules for Liberals and his friends, and a whole other set of rules for everybody else, all the other poor schmucks. What is really at play here is that if the Prime Minister truly wanted to be ethical and end cash for access, all he needed to do was just stop doing these types of fundraisers. It is a no-brainer. It is cliché to say that it is not rocket science, but it is beyond that. I mean, it could not be clearer. It just does not take legislation to stop unethical behaviour. It just takes being ethical. It is ludicrous that we are even having to sit here and debate this kind of thing when we all know what the situation is. Just be ethical. All one needs is a good moral compass, and we are not seeing that from this Prime Minister.

I will transition for a minute to say a few words about the party I represent. The truth is that we approach things differently. We get a lot of smaller donations from regular Canadians, and we continue to get them. As a party, we do not rely on wealthy elites and pay-to-play events and such fundraisers. We really do not. In fact, I am told that opposition Conservatives just had their best fourth quarter ever and the best year since the 2015 election, without relying on these kinds of unethical fundraising practices the Liberals have employed. Now, the Liberals had their worst fundraising year since the Prime Minister became their leader, because they had to halt these unethical types of fundraisers. That is exactly why that happened.

These numbers support what we are hearing from all constituents and Canadians across the country. Canadians are really tired of the Prime Minister's unethical behaviour, tax hikes, and failure to deliver results for middle-class Canadians. Conservatives will continue to follow the law, as we always have.